The importance of vision in sport

Have you ever closed one eye and then tried to catch a ball that has been thrown at you?… If you have, you probably found that catching the ball is easier when you use both eyes (assuming that your two eyes work well together, as a team). Now try catch a ball with both eyes closed. Usually trying to catch a ball under these conditions is an impossible task.

In most sport (probably all sport), vision is the dominant sense. One would usually think that seeing clearly is all that is needed to make vision dominant. However, the vision skills that are needed to perform optimally at sport are much more involved than only being able to see clearly. For example, going back to catching a ball. This is an extremely complicated action. Your eyes, and only your eyes, tell you where the ball is in space. Making use of visual information only, you have to judge the speed of the ball and its flight path, you then have to make some kind of projection or estimation of where the ball is going to be when it gets within catching distance of your hands. This all has to happen within a matter of milliseconds. You then have to get your hands to where the ball is estimated to be in space and get them around the ball so that the ball stays there. Hopefully, your estimation of where the ball is in space is accurate so that your projection of the ball’s position is in realitythe ball’s position, otherwise, your hands and the ball do not meet. Of course this is when you are standing still. Catching a ball when moving adds considerably to the complexity of the action.

Catching a ball is just one of many actions occuring in sport. Your eyes give you the information you need to perform those actions. There are many varied visual skills which play a role in sport. Most times, each sport has unique vision skills requirements. Knowing which skills are important for which sport, how to evaluate those skills and prescribe therapy to improve those skills is all within the scope of optometrists who have taken the time and effort to understand sports vision skills requirements and how to train those skills.

If you believe that your sports performance can be improved or needs to be improved, consider seeing a sports vision optometrist who could give you further advice. Remember, not all optometrists have an interest in sports vision. When approaching an optometrist for a sports vision evaluation, make sure that you enquire about his/her experience in sports vision, do they have all the necessary equipment to evaluate sports vision skills? how long does a sports vision evaluation take? If the time taken to perform a sports vision evaluation is less then 1-1,5 hours, perhaps consider someone else.

Vision plays an important role in all sport. Are you under-performing at your chosen sport? Improving your visual skills could very well make all the difference to your enjoyment of your sport.

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